If you’re a student, by this point you’ve made it through midterms and you’re preparing to cram for end of term exams. You probably have a million things to do from assignments to group work to studying and you’re quite possibly be sacrificing sleep just to keep up. You’re busy. If you’re not a student but have a full calendar and a long list of commitments, you also know what ‘busy’ feels like. It’s rushing to work in the morning, struggling to keep up throughout the day, hurrying home to make dinner and then scooting off to extra-curricular activities in the evening. For so many of us, it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.
We live in a society that glamourizes being busy. We’re taught to believe this is a good thing and that if we’re running around like mad women, we don’t only have it all together but we’re also doing it right. I’m about to tell you something different though – we’re doing it all wrong.
BUSY – having a great deal to do
PRODUCTIVE – having the power of producing
In other words, (my words) busy means running about doing many things at once and probably not accomplishing a lot, whereas productive means having the power to accomplish what actually needs to be done. It took me until this past summer to understand that there’s a BIG difference between busy and productive and now that I’m aware of it, I’m working on becoming more productive and less busy. It has been more challenging for me than I’d like to admit and it’s taking a lot of practice and discipline but to save my sanity, I’m determined to do it. And you can, too. Here’s how:
Get Off of The Internet
Not right now, because you’re already reading this article so sit back, finish it and enjoy it, but once you’re finished, get off the Internet. If you have things to do, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram is not only going to completely derail your train of thought, but it’s also going to waste A LOT of your time, too. If we added up the amount of time we spend on our phones to ‘quickly check something’, we’d be shocked. One click leads to another and then to another and then all of a sudden something that was supposed to take two seconds has turned into ten minutes of wasted time. I like to call this ‘falling down the dark scrolling hole.’ To avoid it, I’ve learnt to leave my phone in another room while I’m working so I can’t get distracted. If you don’t want to part with your phone (sadly, I think this can cause separation anxiety for some people), disable your data or put your phone in a drawer. Whatever you need to do, don’t look at it and don’t go online when you have a task to complete. The mind can work a lot more quickly and efficiently without constant interruptions.
Speaking of interruptions, stop multitasking. This is easier said than done because smartphones have taught our brains to crave more and more stimuli so it’s difficult to focus on one task at one time. If you think about it this way though, attempting to do ten tasks at once is going to take ten times longer than focusing on one task at a time. Make a to-do list and do your best to work your way through it, task by task. You’ll be surprised by how much quicker you get through it and how much more time you have for yourself at the end of the day.
You may feel like you have a lot of things to do, but how many of them do you really have to do? A simple exercise to determine this is to make a list of everything you have to do in the day. Then, look at the list and number each task based on its level of priority. Ask yourself “of all the things I have to do, how many of them am I doing for myself? How many am I doing for others?” It’s very kind to do things for others, but try to not allow these tasks to interfering with your own obligations. My plate is always full and I’ve struggled with this but I’ve learnt to prioritize the tasks that are going to help me achieve my goals over almost everything else. I still do a lot of things for my family, my friends and my community, but I’m careful to not take on too much.
Take Time For You
Even when you feel like you’re far too busy to take a minute to breathe, you have to. Think of it this way, we wouldn’t exercise our bodies on overdrive for hours and hours and hours because we would become so fatigued we’d probably fall over. So why would we do it to our minds? It’s important to take time to re-charge because a tired mind is an unfocused mind is an unproductive mind. If you’re not able to take an afternoon or an evening to do some nice things for yourself, take ten minutes. There are a lot of meditation apps that will help you connect back to your breath and quiet your mind. Sit in a quiet space, close your eyes, focus on your breath and accept that in order to be productive, you need to give yourself quiet time.
I hope these tips will help you save your sanity when things get crazy. Remember, you have the POWER to produce!
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How do you hit pause on the busy and take time out for yourself? Share your experiences below.
ASHLEY WOOD is a recipe developer and writer from Winnipeg, Canada. With a passion for health, wellness and vegetables, Ashley creates simple and inexpensive vegan recipes made from whole ingredients that are often seasonal, sometimes gluten-free and occasionally raw. Ashley believe in celebrating the benefits of living a vegan lifestyle and at the very least, hopes to inspire others to eat more plants, smile and live with some Sunshine.